Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or that 5-star might be leaning and sprinkle in a dab of perspective to help folks figure out what it all means.
ATHENS, Ga. — The number to keep in mind is currently 15. That’s the number of commitments Georgia has for the Class of 2017.
DawgNation projects that number will soar north to 27. That’s expecting some attrition given the limited amount of seniors on this year’s football team and several early entries to the NFL Draft.
That means there are about 12 more commitments necessary to reach 27 signees on National Signing Day next February. DawgNation has already projected that eventual 2017 signing class, but sometimes a lot of folks are too busy to keep up with everybody.
That’s why DawgNation routinely stacks and re-racks and sorts the Top 5 must-sign players on Georgia’s needs list for the Class of 2017. The recent commitment of the nation’s No. 4 RB in D’Andre Swift has filled that need at RB for 2017.
Swift and speedy Texan Toneil Carter will form a very potent duo. What does the new list look like? A big hint is to expect a lot of headlines regarding WR and LB in the near future.
Georgia’s 5 biggest remaining recruiting targets for 2017
(1) 4-star DT Aubrey Solomon (Lee County / Leesburg, Ga.)
Ranked: No. 5 in the nation at DT and No. 77 overall
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Auburn and Michigan
Why: I think his recent de-commitment from Michigan bodes well for Georgia. I do think that the Bulldogs are now the team to beat and maybe the tug-of-war here won’t be as difficult as other guys down this list.
The reason I’ve got Solomon on top is because he plays a premier position. Georgia won’t win the really big games with Kirby Smart unless it makes a habit of getting the best defensive linemen in the state every year. The No. 8 player in Georgia this year also plays a premium position that will define the Smart era in Athens.
(2) 4-star S DeAngelo Gibbs (Grayson / Loganville, Ga.)
Ranked: No. 3 in the nation at Safety and No. 44 overall
Biggest contenders: Florida, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee
Why: Gibbs also rates as the No. 3 player in Georgia for 2017 and I had him at No. 1 on the list for the longest time because of his versatility. He has two uncles (Dale Carter and Jake Reed) that both played 12-plus years in the NFL and he’s been rated among the nation’s Top 5 prospects at athlete, receiver and now safety in his prep career. He could be a No. 1 receiver in the SEC or a lockdown cornerback, but his ball skills and striking ability at safety would be a tantalizing back end of the Bulldog defense as he would then line up next to current UGA commitment Richard LeCounte III.
Lecounte is Georgia’s highest-rated commitment for 2017 and if Gibbs jumps on board that would give the Bulldogs the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 safeties for this year’s class. The Bulldogs do look to be in good shape here with Gibbs.
(3) 4-star ILB Nate McBride (Vidalia / Vidalia, Ga.)
Hgt./Wgt: 6-1 /220
Ranked: No. 1 ILB in the nation and No. 78 overall
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Auburn and Oregon
Why: McBride simply has elite speed that’s rare for his position. Combine that with a 400-pound bench press and the fact he’s the son of a longtime high school assistant coach. He’s as fast as the swiftest impact recruits on offense with sub-10.6 speed in the 100 meters. Georgia also needs linebackers and inside linebacker is a definite need. Look for Georgia to sign up to five more linebackers in this class and McBride is at the top of that list. He’ll take an official visit to Oregon and how well that trip goes will shape his decision going forward.
McBride might know what he wants by then, but then might wait until the U.S. Army All-American game to let the world know. He’s not a perfect recruit as a few well-respected scouts around the South would like him to bring more of that speed and power when lighting players up as he fills gaps and sheds blocks. But he’s rated this highly because he has rare tools at his position.
(4) 4-star OLB Walter Grant ( Cairo / Cairo, Ga.)
Ranked: No. 17 OLB in the nation and No. 265 overall
Biggest contenders: Alabama and Florida State
Why: Remember what I said about the linebacker position? Well, Grant settles in here because he’s underexposed and he could play inside or outside and at defensive end. He could do each of those things very well and he has impressive length at his position.
Florida State would be playing closest to home, but this should come down to Georgia and Alabama. Grant grew up wanting to play for the Crimson Tide, but the Bulldogs (and especially assistant coach Kevin Sherrer) have done a very good job with Grant. He’s expecting to make his decision sometime in October and if he chooses Georgia, it will help sort out all the options for Georgia at that position.
Grant’s ratings look a little low compared to the other blue-chips on this list, but I think that the Scout.com evaluation is the closest to his real value. He’s ranked as the nation’s No. 7 OLB and the No. 93 player overall by that service.
(5) 4-star WR Nico Collins (Clay-Chalkville High School / Pinson, Ala.)
Ranked: No. 13 in the nation at WR and No. 86 overall
Biggest contenders: Alabama, Clemson and Michigan
Why: This was a very tough call picking out one of the three receivers Georgia has crossed its fingers for and then put in the work necessary to add to this class. Mark Webb, Jr. should commit within the next two weeks and Newton’s Jeremiah Holloman should eventually choose UGA in what shapes up as a tough fight. Both of those guys are four-star recruits who would be the highest-rated commitments Georgia has at receiver. They would stock the cupboard with the size and length Georgia needs in its receiver room.
But I placed Collins here for a few factors: 1) His size jumps out and he’s produced at an All-State level for three seasons at one of the top programs in Alabama; 2) This will be a tough race to beat out Alabama for the top offensive prospect in the state this year. If Georgia pulls a key Alabama target out state, that will say a lot about the recruiting muscle of the program going forward; 3) This one will go down to the wire and might be one of the toughest fights for this class on National Signing Day.
I consider this to be a very close call with Holloman and Webb, but those factors plus the fact that Collins is the highest rated of the trio plus he’s at least a couple of inches taller with elite size for a receiver won out.
Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.